THIS week marked a celebration for movie Kalushi which on Human Rights’s Day made R254 452 at Box Office which grossed a total of R1 614 773 with 28 755 attendances within 12 days of hitting local cinemas.
The film directed by Mandla Dube, is a biopic of the life of struggle activist Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu which has taken nearly nine years to complete and tells the story of Kalushi (played by Thabo Rametsi) whose life was ended at the age of 23 by execution during the height of apartheid.
Within seven days at the cinema it had made R783 877, as it’s actors Rametsi, Thabo Malema, Pearl Thusi and more have been campaigning on social media rallying locals to go watch the film, and although it’s working the film could find itself being removed at several cinemas if it doesn’t make the top five highest grossing films by the end of this week.
And this is an ongoing problem in South African film distribution, a fight many filmmakers know such as Akin Omotoso, whose film Tell Me Sweet Something was booted off box office from some suburban cinemas when it didn’t make the top tier of most watched films at the cinemas.
In 2015, Sunday Times reported a story about the plight local films face while the Afrikaans genres seemed to soar in numbers at cinemas and various issues seemed evident when looking at the demographics and the issues of why audiences don’t watch local films, can’t access them and why local films can make as little to nothing at cinemas.
One issue prevalent to local films was the access to cinemas from townships and rural areas which actress Florence Masebe who starred in Vhenda film Elelwani - which only raked in R290 897 at Box Office as reported by National Film and Video Foundation in 2014 - raised and continues to champion.
“Every culture likes watching films in their own languages and about their own cultures, but there are not enough cinemas. There are many other issues, including that funders need to also fund for the marketing and distribution of the film, not just the production aspect.
“Filmmakers shouldn’t have to mortgage their homes and use their children’s education funds to ensure their films are a success,” she said.
Another issue was the fact that certain races were supporting each other when it came to supporting each other's productions as they fund and promote each other to ensure their films do better than others.
Film director Sara Blecher, who has worked on Otelo Burning, Surfing Soweto and Ayanda, said the success of Afrikaans-language films could be attributed to filmmakers who had been “developing a consistent vision to uplifting their films”.
“The Afrikaans market is a small margin compared to other languages in this country, but they believe and support the enrichment and preservation of their culture and language.
“They get private funders who are also willing to keep the language strong.
“Filmmakers should all engage each other to unpack and learn from the Afrikaans market just where they could be going wrong and how they, too, can further their films ,” said Blecher.
Rametsi who is passionate on pushing his film as far as it can go, said he had attempted to raise some issues on the distributors of Kalushi, said he “got into trouble” when he raised the geographical distribution issues of the film.
Instead the young filmstar urged his followers “who cant access Kalushi in your areas or can’t afford the cinema price please tweet” as he said “the gatekeepers need to see this”.
“So #Kalushi isn't doing as well at the theatres. Movies for Indian audience and Afrikaans audience are doing better. We need our people,” wrote Rametsi on Tuesday.
And he got massive response:
“Take our movies to our people. If you have to take 2 taxis just to get to the movie theatre, the overall cost gets too much,” tweeted one Mzwandile Jula.
Buhle Mbonambi even suggested: “@ThaboRametsi I know there's virtually no marketing budget- but what the black churches did for #HiddenFigures, might work for #Kalushi”.